Unions welcome Griffiths’ Winter Fair speech
ON THE OPENING day of the Royal Welsh Winter Fair, Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, called on the agriculture industry to focus on turning the challenges of Brexit into opportunities.
In a keynote speech at the Hybu Cig Cymru breakfast, the Cabinet Secretary spoke about a number of important initiatives the Welsh Government has in place to provide valuable support to farmers, many of which are particularly relevant as the UK leaves the EU and farm businesses prepare for the major change that lies ahead.
A new land capability mapping system for Wales has been launched by the Cabinet Secretary at this year’s Winter Fair – the first major update since the original maps were produced in the early 1970’s. The Predictive Agricultural Land Classification (ALC) Map allows land users, planners and Government to make informed choices about how agricultural land is used in Wales.
The Cabinet Secretary also announced that over 91% of farmers’ Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) 2017 claims will be paid on Friday, December 1. Over £201m will be paid into the bank accounts of 14,111 Welsh farm businesses on the first day on which payments may be made under European rules.
Speaking ahead of the Winter Fair Lesley Griffiths said: “Brexit will bring significant and lasting change, of that there is absolutely no doubt. A ‘no deal’ scenario presents particularly acute risks for those sectors particularly reliant on exports to the EU, including lamb.
“Leaving the Common Agricultural Policy and new, yet to be established, trading arrangements mean that maintaining the status quo is simply not an option.Turning challenges into opportunities is where the industry and individual farm businesses need to be focusing their attention.
“For our part, we are already heavily involved working alongside our key partners in seeking to address our agriculture sectors’ readiness for Brexit.
“Brexit will provide a once in a generation opportunity to redesign our policy framework in a way that is uniquely Welsh, that reflects Welsh needs and strengths.
“We all have a role to play shaping how the industry will look after Brexit and we need farmers to be bold, imaginative; open to new ideas and practices.
“With this new approach in mind, I’m pleased to today launch a new Predictive Agricultural Land Classification Map for Wales. It identifies the potential versatility of land to support a range of cropping choices and allows land users, planners and Government to make informed choices on how land is used.
“My priority is to ensure our agricultural industry is in the best possible position to deal with the change ahead. As a government we are committed to providing solutions which work for Wales and we will continue to work with the industry, our partners and others to make the most of every opportunity.”
On the record payment of Basic Payment Scheme claims, the Cabinet Secretary added: “I am delighted to announce that over 91% of farmers receiving their BPS payments on the first day. This is yet another example of the success of our uniquely Welsh approach and our exemplary record on payments. It is a tribute to the way Welsh farmers have embraced new technology, RPW Online and made the new system such a success.”
The Farmers’ Union of Wales has welcomed the announcement by Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths that over 91% of Basic Payments will be made on the first day of the payment window.
Speaking at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The Welsh Government has hit a high payment target and we are grateful to all the staff who have worked hard to ensure money can be released on the first day of the payment window. However, there are still 9% of farms who will not receive their payment and we hope that rapid progress can be made in processing these.
“Most of the money arriving in the farm account through the BPS will be going straight out to secondary and tertiary businesses. Hundreds of businesses are solely reliant on Welsh agriculture. Look at all the traders and businesses exhibiting at the Fair today. Any delay in the payment of the Basic Payment would have a direct impact on these businesses and their employees.
“We have been working closely with Welsh Government to achieve this result for our farmers here in Wales and are looking forward to continue in our close working relationship in the future. The co-operation between all industry stakeholders and Welsh Government illustrates that we can achieve great things for Welsh farming if we work collaboratively.”
Stephen James, NFU Cymru President said: “The announcement that over 91% of claims will be paid on the first day of the payment window, together with an improved exchange rate, up 4.98% on the 2016 rate, is good news and will be a boost not just to farm businesses but also to the thousands of rural businesses that rely heavily on farmers for much of their income.
“For every £1 invested in farm support in the UK, farming delivers around £7.40 back to the economy.”